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BahrainGP: Many talking points ahead of Formula 1 opener

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Formula 1 has plenty to talk about as it heads into a record 24-race season that starts in Bahrain on 2 March and ends in Abu Dhabi on 8 December. It’s the 74th running of the FIA F1 World Championship.

Haas F1 Team prevboss Guenther Steiner’s exit provided a surprise in January, followed by the shock announcement of Lewis Hamilton’s move from Mercedes to Ferrari for 2025 and Red Bull’s investigation of team principal Christian Horner’s conduct.

Charles Leclerc has extended his contract with Ferrari while McLaren have secured Lando Norris for years to come. The following looks at what are likely to be the main talking points of the F1 year ahead.

RED BULL DOMINATION

The Reigning F1 world champions champions enjoyed the most dominant season ever last year, with 21 wins in 22 races and triple world champion Max Verstappen winning 19 of them. How far ahead will Red Bull be this year and when will rivals close the gap, if at all?

HORNER INVESTIGATION

Christian Horner has denied a Red Bull employee’s allegations against him, which have not been revealed, but will he stay or go? The departure of the longest-serving F1 team boss and one of the most successful would be seismic and have serious implications for the champions.

HAMILTON’S MERCEDES FAREWELL

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Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton is starting his last season with Mercedes before donning the red overalls of Ferrari for at least two years. Has the 39-year-old made the right call, can he win again with Mercedes? Have Mercedes finally got it right after two years of struggling?

F1 SILLY SEASON

This one is likely to run and run, with more than half the grid out of contract at the end of 2024 and some top seats available. Who replaces Hamilton? Where will Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz end up? Will Daniel Ricciardo take Sergio Perez’s place at Red Bull Racing? Is Williams’ Alex Albon set for a move? Who is going to end up without a seat for 2025?

FERNANDO ALONSO

The double world champion turns 43 in July. How much longer will the Spaniard go on for, can the most experienced driver of all time add to his tally of 32 wins and where will he be driving next season?

B TEAM

AlphaTauri’s morphing into Visa Cash App RB has also come with new leadership and closer ties with sister team Red Bull Racing. McLaren’s Zak Brown has questioned Red Bull’s ownership of two teams and the advantages that brings.

FIA AND F1

Ben Sulayem: We leased Formula 1 we are landlord

Relations between the sport’s commercial rights holders and the governing body were combative at times last year. Expect more of the same in 2024.

BURNOUT

With 24 races to get through, some team members including mechanics could be feeling the strain as the months go by. Expect this to become an increasingly discussed subject.

F1 SPRINT RACES

A new schedule this season so that Saturday is no longer a standalone sprint day. The sprint qualifying ‘shootout’ is now on Friday and the 100km race on Saturday morning before qualifying for the grand prix later that day.

ANDRETTI SAGA

Turned down by F1 as a potential 11th team for 2025, but with a door held open for 2028, the General Motors-backed Andretti Cadillac bid is not about to go away. What will be the next steps?

FIRST F1 WIN?

Is this the year that McLaren’s Lando Norris takes his first win after six second places in 2023? Or will he claim the outright record for most podiums without a win, one he shares with retired German Nick Heidfeld (13).

NEW BOSSES AND NAMES

Ayao Komatsu has taken over at Haas and Laurent Mekies at RB. Sauber-run Alfa Romeo are now competing as Stake F1, where betting laws permit, or the alternative name of Kick. Expect many fans to just refer to them as Sauber. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)

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